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SBD/September 13, 2012/People and Pop Culture
What I Like.... With D'Backs President & CEO Derrick Hall
Published September 13, 2012
In our continuing series, SportsBusiness Daily/SportsBusiness Journal asks top sports personalities for their thoughts, ideas, aspirations and likes. Today, D'Backs President & CEO DERRICK HALL.
What I like in an insight: The employee should always come first. If we respect, recognize, reward and promote our staff members, they will in turn treat our customers and fans the way we expect them to be treated.
An influential person in my career: My father, who encouraged me to chase my dreams in Major League Baseball. Our owner, KEN KENDRICK, as well, who is an accomplished entrepreneur and has taught me more about business in the last few years than I have learned in a lifetime.
An out-of-the-box idea: We created a D’Backs Give Back League, where nine teams of 11 employees have established their own community mission statements and benefactors, as they volunteer on their own time to make an impact on the community. The team with the most original concept and greatest impact will win a trip to our academy in the Dominican Republic, where they will also partake in a community initiative there.
A timeless idea: I would like to see MLB bring back the bullpen carts with the oversized baseball caps to bring relief pitchers into games, as long as fans do not interpret the move as pampering.
A business deal: To me, the recently negotiated television rights agreement between MLB and ESPN, that doubled in numbers, is a home run and demonstrated the popularity of our sport and the trend of rising rights fees.
A sports facility: Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. I am extremely proud of this facility that is LEED-certified and offers the finest in fan access, breathtaking views, and shade and comfort.
A sports event: The Waste Management Phoenix Open. It is the biggest party in golf, but brings $5-7M per year to Arizona charities, even after expenses and purses are paid.
A strategy: We implemented a customer service strategy called FAWTSY, an acronym for "Find a Way to Say Yes." These are words that our game-day staff live by, and they wear those letters proudly on a badge on their uniforms.
A hire: LARRY SCOTT as Pac-12 commissioner. He has done a tremendous job with conference expansion and network negotiations.
A brand: I am amazed by the branding success of Geico. That green gecko immediately translates to insurance savings. There are various games on our schedule when he makes an appearance at Chase Field, and as he walks around, all fans point to him and say, "Hey, there's the Geico gecko."
A trend: Social media and its growth. This is one of the best tools to communicate with fans and to interact through conversation and contests.
An innovation: Our commissioner's foresight to create MLB Advanced Media and the MLB Network. These have been huge game changers when it comes to the growth of coverage and popularity of our sport, as well as valuation for each of our franchises.
A pro league or team business initiative: With the absence of an Olympic presence and a desire to one day have a true World Series, I applaud Major League Baseball International and BUD SELIG for the creation and success of the World Baseball Classic. The best players in our game understand the importance of this global competition and voluntarily raise their hands to represent their birth nations.
A story that bears watching: The future starting rotation of the D’Backs. We are getting a glimpse of it this year with lefties WADE MILEY, TYLER SKAGGS and PATRICK CORBIN. The future looks bright indeed.
An idea or invention I wish I had thought of: Cash-less parking meters. And it is one of those inventions I thought of about five to 10 years ago and was certain I would own the patent.
A fantasy job: President & CEO of the D’Backs. It is a dream come true and I never feel like I am at work. I have to give credit to our staff, the best in sports. They are innovative and self-motivated and are proud to wear the logo each and every day. We have created the best workplace culture in corporate America, in my opinion, because they so richly deserve it.
What I like about my job: The competitive nature of the games themselves, and the constant interaction and feedback I receive from our fans. There is a new challenge every day -- be it political, media, revenue, attendance, player performance, etc. I am always amazed with the thoughts and ideas that stem from my talented leadership team after circling the wagons.
Sports: The extreme passion that fanatics have for their teams and cities. It remains the great escape for our fans from the daily struggles and stresses in life and business. There is no greater image than a sleeping child over the shoulder of a parent on the way out of the ballpark after a victory.
Sports business: We have the power and resources associated with our brands and industries that enable us to impact society unlike any other corporations.
Sports media: Having dabbled in the past on that side of the microphone, I have great respect for the media's knowledge and ability to switch gears and ad lib at the drop of a hat.
Sports technology: The fact that our in-ballpark experience offers more for our fans in attendance than those watching at home. They can now see instant replays, stats, bios, photos and stadium information from their handhelds or tablets through our free in-stadium Wi-Fi. We also allow fans to custom-order food now from their seats, and they are alerted when it is ready to pick up at a dedicated line.
The future of sports business: I am bullish on the expansion of baseball internationally. We have a great opportunity and ability to grow it globally.
Sports fans: Their willingness to invest dollars into the team through tickets and merchandise as well as time through broadcasts and media coverage.
What I would like to change: I would like to make infield practice mandatory before each game so that the fans can watch. I would also like to have the visiting team take batting practice first so that the home crowd can watch their team take BP, while allowing home players to spend more time with their families during the day.
Change in what I do: I would like to cut down on the amount of broken bats in our game. Those are flying weapons that put our players and some fans in harm's way. I would also like to consider extending protective fencing, but the fans express strong opposition to it.
See: More owners like JERRY REINSDORF who care about their employees and sport more than their own personal gain.
See more of in sports: Kids in the stands. With so many options and so much entertainment competition, we need to capture and constantly spark their interest.
See more of in sports business: A true sharing of ideas between organizations. We are slowly realizing that we only compete on the field and that we can help one another with the sharing of best practices. We all need to maximize revenues and fan treatment to advance as leagues and industries.
See less of in sports: Selfish approaches by players toward the games. Eliminate the "me" factor.
See less of in sports business: Stress and time away from family. When my counterpart at the Rockies and dear friend KELI MCGREGOR passed, I quickly realized this sport consumes us and we often neglect our health and family unknowingly. And he found more time for both than most of us.
Eliminate: The DH. I know it serves a purpose and prolongs careers, and for that I am grateful, but I am a National League fan and enjoy seeing the pitcher hit as well as the strategy involved in pitching around others to get to him.
What I don't like in general: Dirty door handles and germ-infested surfaces.
Pet peeve: Letters or e-mails written to me with my name misspelled. It screams lack of research.
In sports: Drug use of any kind by athletes who serve as role models.
In business: Dishonesty and lack of integrity.
About sports fans: Those who are overly aggressive toward fans of the opposition. There needs to be a certain level of mutual respect.
What I like that would surprise those who know me: When we win games, I rush home to watch the postgame coverage as well as all highlights. When we lose, I take my time getting home and immediately turn on the Food Network. A few years ago, we lost 97 games, but I became an amazing cook. Believe me, I would much rather win 97 games and burn water.
Above all else: I want the most polite kids on the planet. Nothing makes me prouder than to hear a server at a restaurant say that our kids have the finest manners they have ever encountered. That happens frequently, so thank goodness for their mother's direction.
About myself: My ability to do impersonations of my co-workers. Makes storytelling a little more interesting.
Heroes: My father, SANDY KOUFAX, JACKIE ROBINSON, DR. INDERBIR GILL (my cancer surgeon).
Players: FERNANDO VALENZUELA, KURT RAMBIS, KIRK GIBSON, ROGER FEDERER, PELE, BILLIE JEAN KING.
Teams: All Arizona teams: D’Backs, Cardinals, Suns, Coyotes, Sun Devils.
City: My wife and I have become big fans of the large cities. New York, Chicago and San Francisco top the list. Great restaurants for our dietary needs.
Possession: My two black labs, Ziggy and Rudy. Ziggy is therapeutic for me. He gets me and knows how to calm me down and comfort me. There is nothing like a loyal friend lying on your feet after a long, hard day.
Memento: A list I compiled on a hotel note pad of the reasons I was not ready to die after being diagnosed with prostate cancer last September.
Time of year: March. The weather in Phoenix is fantastic, and it is Spring Training, when all 30 teams have a chance to win the World Series.
Music: I have always been a fan of the '70s but have become a big country follower since relocating to Arizona.
Books: Books written about leadership and books written by CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.
Author: RANDY PAUSCH, "The Last Lecture." He and my father both passed from pancreatic cancer, a terrible disease. BOB NUTTING, owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates, bought me the book after my father was diagnosed.
Magazines: SportsBusiness Journal, Sports Illustrated, ESPN The Magazine, Time, Newsweek.
Websites: Amazon, Zappos, Happy Cow, DBacks.com.
IPad app: Sonos, which allows our family to control different audio outlets throughout our home and yard. Additionally, Withings has been great for weight and blood pressure tracking -- although it is rather depressing when your big Father's Day gift from the family is a mobile blood pressure machine that syncs with the Withings app.
Trips: I took my wife along with me and some of our executives to Japan recently. This was my third trip there, but she had never been. It was a goodwill tour where we were able to meet with several teams and our counterparts, host fans at the MLB Café, meet with the commissioner, attend games, and see some free agents and conduct a baseball clinic in the region that was devastated by the tsunami. Though our agenda was jam-packed and we spent more time on bullet trains than on the ground, my wife was able to see what I love so much about that amazing culture and a country full of gracious and friendly hosts.
Movies: "The Godfather," "The Deer Hunter," "Old School," "Happy Gilmore."
TV: "The Sopranos," "Ed," "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations," "Man v. Food."
Concerts: U2 and the POLICE are two that stand out from the past. As for recently, we had the BEACH BOYS perform at our annual Evening on the Diamond charity gala, and those guys never get old. They belted out hit after hit, and our crowd couldn't help but dance.
Food: Vegan comfort food.
Ballpark food: Cracker Jacks and all of our healthy items, such as a veggie cup, the Sloppy Jane and vegan quesadillas.
Drink: Red wine and water. Who needs anything else?
Vacation spots: Kaanapali, Hawaii, and our home in the Arizona White Mountains.
Cars: Love my Lexus SUV and my wife's Suburban that displays the license plate HAULKDZ.
Singer: FRANK SINATRA has always been my favorite, but my iPod is completely eclectic, with EARTH, WIND & FIRE, the ZAC BROWN BAND and ANDREA BOCELLI.
Quote: "If you truly love what you do, you will never work a day in your life."